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Commuter Rail in Latin America: Expansion and modernisation underway [free access]

September 1, 2019

The commuter rail network is being increasingly adopted in Latin America, a region so far dominated by the bus rapid transit (BRT), metro, and light rail systems. Increasing urbanisation, traffic congestion, and pollution are providing a push for the expansion of commuter rail in the region. Currently, there are more than 20 operational commuter rail systems in Latin America. These systems collectively span over 2,000 km and cover over 590 stations. The majority of commuter rail lines are in Argentina (seven rail lines under the Buenos Aires commuter rail network), followed by Chile (seven lines).

 

Figure 1 provides information about the existing commuter rail network in the region.

 

Figure 1: Current commuter rail network in Latin America

  

Note: Data for Chile as on December 31, 2018.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Many of these systems are undergoing expansion and modernisation. This provides significant opportunities for developers, contractors, operators, equipment manufacturers, technology suppliers, and construction material suppliers.

 

Upcoming and ongoing projects


Over 700 km of new rail lines are planned to be expanded and modernised at an investment of over USD21.3 billion between 2019 and 2027. Of the total investment, the maximum investment will be witnessed in Argentina, followed by Chile and Peru.

 

Table 1 provides a snapshot of investment in the region.

 

Table 1: Investment in commuter rail expansion and modernisation in Latin America

Country

Length (km)

Investment (USD million)

Investment in modernisation/ rolling stock (USD million)

Total investment (USD million)

Expected year of completion

Mexico

35

72.06

-

72.06

2022

Brazil

NA

NA

NA

NA

TBA*

Peru

323.70

3,206

-

3,206

TBA

Paraguay

44

380

-

380

TBA

Argentina

52.90

7,600

6,586

14,186

2023

Chile

256.90

3,257.90

199.1

3,457

2027

Note: *- Information about the period of investment by the SuperVia consortium in the commuter modernisation is not available; NA- Not available; TBA- To be announced

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Commuter rail expansion in Mexico City, Mexico


The Suburban Rail Authority of Mexico City has proposed a plan to extend the suburban rail line by 35 km to Saint Lucia Military Air Base. It will be developed at an investment of USD72.06 million. It is expected to be operationalised by 2022. A fleet of four-car trains having an average speed of 65 km/hr is planned to be deployed.

 

Brazil


In Brazil, the São Paulo commuter rail network will be expanded and will undergo modernisation during 2020–24 and a consortium of Japan-based companies will invest JPY3 billion in the SuperVia rail network.

 

Commuter rail expansion and modernisation in São Paulo, Brazil


Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM) has announced plans to extend lines 11, 12, and 13 and to procure rolling stock during 2020–24. The details about these plans are not available. CPTM will also undertake works to upgrade communication-based train control (CBTC), automatic train operations (ATO), and power supply systems, as well as upgrade select stations to improve accessibility. Some of these projects have been put on hold due to lack of funding.

 

Currently, works are underway to expand Line 9 by 4.5 km. The extension will cover two stations and will be developed at an estimated investment of BRL945 million. The works are expected to be completed in 2021.

 

SuperVia modernisation


A consortium of Mitsui & Company Limited, West Japan Railway, and the public–private fund Join has announced plans to invest JPY3 billion per year to refurbish the SuperVia network by installing signalling systems and improving service frequency.

 

Construction of new rail line in Peru


Tren de Cercanías Lima–Ica in Peru is a commuter rail line project the portfolio of ProInversión, the country’s agency for the promotion of private investment. The line will span 323.7 km (229.7 km at-grade, 44 km underground) and pass through Lurin, Chilca, Mala, Asia, Cañete, Chincha, Pisco, and Ica districts. The line may offer connections to the Lima Metro network. A fleet of trains having a maximum speed of 200 km/hr is planned to be deployed.

 

The project involves an investment of USD3.206 billion. It will be operated, maintained, and partly financed by the private sector. The duration of the concession agreement is 30 years. As of May 2019, China Railway Construction Corporation (CRRC) has submitted a proposal to participate in the project.

 

Reactivation of rail network in Paraguay


The Tren de Cercanía Asunción–Ypacaraí project in Paraguay aims to reactivate the railway network in the country by developing a commuter rail line to connect Asunción and Ypacaraí. The commuter line will span 44 km and will cover five stations and five stops. Table 2 provides a snapshot of the project.

 

Table 2: Tren de Cercanía Asunción–Ypacaraí project

Parameter

Details

Tracks

Standard gauge (1,435 mm)

Rolling stock

12 low-floor air-conditioned electric trains

Capacity of trains

300 passengers

Operating speed

20 km/hr (urban areas)

Maximum speed

100 km/hr

Frequency of services

5 minutes (during peak hours), 10-15 minutes (off-peak hours)

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

The project will be implemented in two sections, the details of which have been given in Table 3.

 

Table 3: Project implementation

Parameter

Asunción–Luque section

Luque–Ypacaraí section

Length

15 km

29 km

Project cost

USD200 million

USD180 million

Mode of execution

FEPASA, the operator of the national rail network in Paraguay, will enter into a JV with the private concessionaire to develop the section on DBFOM basis within a period of 36 months.

Yet to be announced

Current status

Bids under evaluation

Under planning

Note: DBFOM- Design, build, finance, operate, and maintain; FEPASA- Ferrocarriles del Paraguay Sociedad Anónima; JV- joint venture

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

The bidders for the Asunción–Luque section are a consortium of Argentina-based Benito Roggio Hijos and Benito Roggio Hijos Transporte, Benito Roggio e Hijos SA Paraguay, and South Korea-based Hyundai Rotem; a consortium of Spain-based Sacyr Concesiones and Renfe Operadora and France-based Alstom; Spain-based Bombardier European Holdings SI; a consortium of Spain-based Stadler Rail Valencia S.A.U., Torres Cámara Obras, and Ferrocarrils of the Generalitat Valenciana (FGV), Paraguay-based Tecnoedil S.A. Constructora, and Bolivia-based Empresa Ferroviaria Andina S.A. (FCA);  a consortium of Spain-based OHL Concesiones and OHL Construcciones, and CAF and Panama-based Sky Investments; and a consortium of Argentina-based TMH-Argentina and Russia-based RZD International LLC and AO Tsentralnaya PPK. The result of the bidding is yet to be announced. Construction is expected to commence by end-2019.

 

Massive investments in Argentina


Argentina’s Ministry of Transport is executing multiple projects in Buenos Aires to modernise commuter lines and to improve connectivity between lines at an investment of USD14.2 billion by 2023. Some of these projects will be executed on a public–private partnership (PPP) basis. Table 4 provides information about the projects.

 

Table 4: Commuter rail expansion and modernisation in Buenos Aires by 2023

Project

Scope of work

Investment

Current status

Red de Expresos Regionales (RER)/ Regional Express Network

Interconnecting the six lines of commuter rail network by construction of underground rail lines and stations, procurement of rolling stock and infrastructure systems

USD3.24 billion

As of November 2018, no bids were received for Stage 1 of the project

Sarmiento Line tunnel

Development of 22.4 km-long tunnel and removal of over 49 level crossings

USD3.80 billion

In progress

Electrification of rail lines and improving electric equipment

Electrification of entire network and improving wiring and power systems of already electrified sections

USD1.09 billion

Electrification works on the Roca and Mitre Line have been completed; works are yet to commence on other lines

Viaducts and removal of level crossings

Development of elevated sections of San Martin, Mitre and Belgrano Sur Lines and removal of level crossings

USD1.36 billion

San Martin and Mitre elevated sections are operational; tender is open for Belgrano Sur line

Signal upgrade and deployment of ATS system

Upgrading signalling system and deploying automatic train stop (ATS) system on all lines

USD816 million

Works are expected to be complete by end-2019

Rolling stock procurement

Expansion of rolling stock from 1,748* rail cars to 2,798 rail cars

USD3.24 billion

Contracts have been awarded for select lines

Improving stations

Improving accessibility, installing passenger information system and renovation of stations

USD733 million

Works are expected to be completed by end-2019

Tracks renewal

Renewing infrastructure

USD570 million

Works underway

Rolling stock workshops

Development of workshops to support the expanding rolling stock

USD193 million

Works underway

Note: *- Estimated fleet size for 2019

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

In June 2019, the Government of Argentina approved plans to invite bids to appoint a concessionaire for the Urquiza and Belgrano Norte lines. The duration of the concession agreement will be 15 years. The scope of work includes rehabilitation of the rail line, holding of workshops, provision of operations and maintenance (O&M) and personnel management services, and undertaking of works to improve signalling and communication systems and stations. The date of launch of tenders is yet to be announced.

 

Commuter rail expansion under Chile on Rails programme


In September 2019, the Government of Chile launched the Chile on Rails programme, aimed at expanding the rail network and increasing ridership by 2027. It involves development of new lines and extensions spanning around 257 km, construction of a bridge for the Biobío Line, and procurement of rolling stock at an estimated investment of USD3.73 billion by 2027. Tenders for most of the projects are yet to be launched.

 

Tables5 and 6 provide information about projects under the Chile on Rails programme.

 

Table 5: Commuter rail expansion projects under Chile on Rails programme

Name of the project

Length (km)

No. of stations

Total cost (USD million)

No. of trains to be procured

Year of commencement of operations

Valparaíso Metro Merval Quillota-La Calera extension

28

5

443.40

15

2026/2027

Metrotren Melipilla

61

11

1,561.90

22

2025/2026

Metrotren  Batuco

48

8+

668.80

8

2025/2026

Metrotren Araucanía

43

6

187.80

3+

2024

Biotrén expansion*

48

NA

274.80

19

2025

Biotren-Lirquén extension

19.4

5

73.70

NA

2027

Biotrén Coronel-Lota extension

9.5

2

47.50

NA

2024

Total

256.9

37+

3,257.90

67+

 

Note: *- New lines will be developed; NA- Not available

Source: Groupo EFE

 

Table 6: Rolling stock procurement plans

Name of the line

No. of trains to be procured

Total investment (USD million)

Expected year of deployment of trains

Metroten Nos

8

54.90

2023

Alameda-Chillán Line

6

115

2022

Talca-Constitución Line

3

13.70

2021

Corto Loja

3

15.50

2021

Total

20

199.10

-

Source: Groupo EFE

 

Open tenders


Currently, bids are invited for rail projects in Argentina and Chile, as shown in Table 7.

 

Table 7: Open tenders

 

Alameda- Chillán Line

Belgrano Sud Line

Country

Chile

Argentina

Organisation

Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (EFE)

Ministry of Transport

Scope of work

Supply of rolling stock

Construction of viaduct

Closing date

September 24, 2019

October 16, 2019

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Recent developments:


Investments:

 

Rolling stock:

 

Commencement of operations:

 

Conclusion


Commuter rail acts as a feeder service for existing urban rail systems by improving connectivity between urban centres and nearby towns. The investments in expansion and modernisation will spur economic growth, provide low-cost mobility solutions to households, reduce productivity losses due to traffic congestion, and increase mobility of human capital. They will also provide opportunities for private players to enter new geographies.

 

(1 BRL [Brazilian Real] = 0.24 USD, 1 JPY [Japanese Yen] = 0.09 USD)